It happens every spring.
The weather warms up and daylight lingers longer. A large number of drivers seemingly come out of hibernation and spend more time on the road.
“People get restless over the winter and they want to get out more,” said AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde.
And then come the crashes.
In the past two weeks, seven Treasure Valley residents have died in crashes. And over the past two months, at least six incidents where motorists struck buildings were reported in Nampa and Boise.
Those don’t even count a recent run of injury crashes, including a Boise motorcyclist who rear-ended a car while changing lanes April 3 on Interstate 84.
One day later, a Kuna 14-year-old ran his bike into a car while on his way to school. Idaho State Police are still searching for the suspect in an early April hit-and-run that hurt a pedestrian near Caldwell. A Boise man was hurt early this past Sunday after losing control of his pickup while merging onto Interstate 84 from Gowen Road.
With more people out on the road, there’s more opportunity for things to go wrong, said Reed Hollinshead, spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department. Wet roads sometimes prevent drivers from stopping in time, causing a number of rear-end crashes, he said.
And while it’s too soon to tell if it’s a factor for some of the recent Treasure Valley crashes, Idaho is not immune from a recent rise in distracted driving and fatal collisions.
“People are turning their cars into mobile offices and their mobile chatrooms. They’re eating food,” Hollinshead said.
“And they’re reacting to every knock or chirp that comes from their phones,” Conde said.
7 deaths, 5 due to just 1 day
Five people died of injuries from two separate wrecks on different ends of the Valley March 30.
Jesus Manuel Vera Guzman, 12, died at the scene of a crash at the intersection of Homedale and Farmway roads southwest of Caldwell. The Boise boy’s siblings, Kimberly, 9, and Ulises, 3, died two days later.
The children’s father, Manuel Vera Gonzalez, 32, reportedly failed to stop at a stop sign and struck a pickup with his van. No citations have been issued. The crash is under investigation by the Idaho State Police.
In the other incident that day, Boisean Derik Olander, 21, was driving west on Interstate 84 when he stopped for some reason in the lane of travel near the Vista interchange. His Subaru Loyale was struck from behind by Stacie Duval, 43, of Kuna in a Toyota SUV.
Two passengers in Olander’s car died. Larry Olander, 19, died at the scene. Ivy Marquez, 19, died Sunday.
The other recent traffic deaths have come since. On April 5, Boise resident Kelly Joy Hall, 57, was walking her two dogs on a frontage road off I-84 when she was struck by a pickup at about 4:20 a.m. She died at the scene. The driver of the pickup called 911 to report the crash and has cooperated as Boise police investigate.
And on Sunday, Tamara J. White, 55, of Boise was killed after crashing her motorcycle on Idaho 55 near Horseshoe Bend. She failed to negotiate a southbound curve and struck a concrete barrier.
Also making news: Building collisions
Those date back to Feb. 22, when an 83-year-old woman struck Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Nampa while trying to park. Police say she hit the gas pedal instead of the brake.
Carlos Lopez, 37, was cited for inattentive driving after he drove through the front window of Connections Credit Union on Nampa’s Caldwell Boulevard on March 23. Police said he was sleep-deprived.
And Nampa resident Marleen M. Ronning, 47, told police she was driving a car with bad brakes after she ran into the Big Smoke shop on Garrity Avenue on April 4. She was cited for the same offense as Lopez because of the condition of the brakes, Sgt. Tim Riha said.
Two people crashed into Jacksons convenience stores in Boise within just a few days, their SUVs each coming to rest fully within the buildings. Ronald Shrimplin, 73, was cited for inattentive driving after hitting the store at Curtis and Overland roads on March 17. Heidi Munro, 51, was charged with reckless driving after striking the store at Boise and Law avenues on March 22.
On Friday, Tesform Hagos lost control of his car while turning right out of a U.S. Bank parking lot on Boise’s Vista Avenue, crashing into the building. He was later cited for reckless driving.
Riha didn’t have an explanation for the rash of building strikes. It just seemed to be a coincidence.
“It comes down to paying attention to what you’re doing at all times when you’re driving,” he said.
Drivers say texting unacceptable, except if they do it themselves
That’s the crux of what authorities warn is fueling a concerning rise in deaths.
In 2015, road fatalities increased by 16 percent in Idaho, according to the Idaho Transportation Department. That was more than double the national increase of 7.2 percent.
Nationwide, nearly 6,000 pedestrians died in crashes last year, according to a new estimate recently cited by the Associated Press. Pedestrian deaths are climbing faster than those of motorists, a trend authorities again ascribe to distractions on the part of both parties.
While 81 percent of drivers surveyed by the American Automobile Association say that texting or emailing while driving is a very serious threat to safety, 40 percent said they had read a text or email while driving in the previous 30 days and nearly a third said they had written a message. That’s despite the fact 78 percent said it was completely unacceptable behavior.
At the same time, more than two out of every three drivers say they have talked on a cellphone while behind the wheel during the past 30 days.
More crashes take place in the summer and fall, especially during the period AAA calls the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer,” between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
AAA last year used the period to highlight teen crash deaths. Nationwide, more than 1,000 people will die — more than 10 per day — in crashes involving teenagers during that window, the travel organization says. Driver distractions are responsible for about 59 percent of those crashes, according to a University of Iowa study.
“We can’t stress enough that people have to pay attention all the time when they’re driving,” Conde said.